The Kenyan army has captured Somalia’s Indian Ocean port of Kismayo, driving Al Qaeda’s Somali franchise Al Shabaab out of its last strategic stronghold, the key to controlling southern Somalia. The small Kenyan army, navy and air force fought to victory Saturday, Sept. 29, after a year-long ground, sea and air offensive.
Fearing the Shabaab was feigning defeat and lurking in the town’s alleys to strike back, Kenyan warships backed by the French Navy shelled suspected terrorist hideouts in Kismayo Sunday.
Kismayo was Nairobi’s prime goal when exactly a year ago, the Kenyan army launched its drive into Somalia following the failure of UN-backed intervention for ridding Somalia of the Islamist terrorists long plaguing the country.
With a population of 200,000, Kismayo, which lies 328 miles southwest of Mogadishu near the mouth of the Jubba River, is the commercial capital of the autonomous Jubalanand region of Somalia which abuts on Kenya.
Very few Western military experts rated the Kenyan army of only 60,000 soldiers capable of routing the hard-bitten 25,000 Shabaab militants and capturing a sizeable region of Somalia – a feat which famously defeated US elite forces in 1993 in Mogadishu and forced the Ethiopian army to retreat with heavy losses in 2006.
But, although Washington and Paris denied any role in the East African conflict, US did contribute to the Kenyan effort with drones gathering intelligence for the Kenyan army and guiding the aim of its artillery, while French battle and supply ships operating out of Kenya’s Indian Ocean port of Mombasa dropped supplies, ammo and fresh Kenyan reinforcements on the Somali coast.
Even more tight-lipped were Jerusalem and Nairobi about Israel’s substantial contribution to the Kenyan war effort to push al Qaeda’s affiliate far from its borders.